Three years after introducing Northcote to its brand of vegetarian Israeli street food, Tel Aviv-born Roy Sassonkin and his Australian partner Natalie Powell have opened a second restaurant in an old jewellery store on Brunswick Street.
Like the original, Tahina Fitzroy is laid-back. Inside, a stainless-steel open-plan kitchen stretches almost the full length of the front room. There are white-and-blue washed walls, rustic blond-wood benches lined with tall white stools and little else apart from a couple of potted plants near the entrance.
It’s an aesthetic that mirrors the restaurant’s relatively straightforward menu. The entirely vegetarian offering remains unchanged from the Northcote original, where traditional Israeli fare finds a home alongside more adventurous dishes.
“Roy’s parents will eat here and then tell us that our food isn’t really Israeli,” Powell says, laughing.
The Vegan “Carrot” Hotdog is a smoked charcoal bun with pickled cabbage, spiced carrot, sweet tomato sauce and a tahini and amba (a tangy mango chutney) mustard, topped with sweet-potato chips.
Shakshuka comes in three varieties – red, green or white. The latter is made with free-range eggs, fennel, wild mushrooms, artichoke, and Meredith goat cheese. Fresh thyme, oregano and chilli give it a kick.
Six-hour roasted cauliflower is cooked en papillote (a French style of cooking in a paper or foil parcel) with a good quantity of lemon juice and garlic.
For dessert there’s vegan tahini and date “caramel” ice-cream from Fitzroy North’s Billy Van Creamy.
The main difference between the new Tahina and its predecessor is size. While the Northcote venue could only seat 27 people, the new site can comfortably seat 60 thanks to an outdoor courtyard.
“Limited space was an issue for the Northcote store. People wanted to book ahead but we just couldn't accommodate them,” says Powell. “But here we've got this big space outside, so it’s a bit more about dining in, having a nice seated experience and coming in large groups.”
The courtyard is significantly roomier than the front. There’s plenty of timber bench seating, as well as red-brick flooring and fairy lights overhead. A retractable roof lets light in on sunny days and keeps things warm in winter.
The restaurant doesn’t have a licence to sell alcohol yet, but Sassonkin and Powell hope to have one in a few months. Until then, guests can choose from a list of smoothies.
362 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 4510
Mon to Fri 11am–9pm
Sat & Sun 11am–9pm